'Gone Wild' founder indicted on gambling charge
LAS VEGAS (AP) - February 2, 2011 (WPVI) -- "Girls Gone Wild" founder Joe Francis was indicted by a grand jury Wednesday on charges that he didn't pay a $2.5 million gambling debt to a Las Vegas Strip casino.
But Francis told The Associated Press that he doesn't owe the money and plans to fight the charges in a case that has been pending nearly three years.
He said he didn't sign a gambling marker - essentially an IOU - and accused the Wynn Las Vegas hotel-casino of trying to cash it 15 months after it was issued, even though they knew his bank had closed the account.
"The moral of the story is, don't gamble at the Wynn casinos or this will happen to you," Francis said. "Steve Wynn is not a man of his word."
Wynn is the billionaire chief executive of Wynn Resorts Ltd., the gambling company that owns Wynn's namesake resort on the Las Vegas Strip.
Wynn Resorts Ltd. spokeswoman Jennifer Dunne declined to comment, saying the company does not comment on pending litigation.
Francis, the producer behind the soft porn empire built on young women flashing their breasts for video cameras, is scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 16, The Clark County district attorney's office said.
Francis is accused of signing markers at Wynn in February 2007 without being able to repay. Unpaid markers are treated like bad checks in Nevada, and Francis is charged with theft and passing a check without sufficient funds.
Francis' attorney Dave Houston said the issues in dispute are the amount owed and how Wynn tried to collect. He said Francis hasn't been given a complete accounting of what's owed.
Wynn won a civil suit against Francis in 2009 over the debt, but Francis and Houston said an appeal of that ruling was pending in Nevada Supreme Court.
Houston said the indictment was legal maneuvering in the criminal case to get it into district court.
"The criminal complaint was filed, sat for three years and now the grand jury has picked it up," Houston said. "The case hasn't gotten any better - it's not a new case - it's simply a retread of the original filing."
The Wynn dispute is one of several legal issues facing Francis.
In Atlanta, a federal judge ruled Tuesday to keep private the names of two underage girls who filed a lawsuit against Francis, accusing him of exploiting them by filming them flashing and engaging in sexual activity. The suit claims the women were ridiculed and forced to leave school once the videos were released.
In November 2009, Francis was sentenced to time served and a year of probation for filing false income tax returns and bribing jail workers in Nevada.
joe francis, las vegas, gambling, entertainment
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